HOUSTON — Will Wade’s worst fears were realized Wednesday night.
With eight consecutive losses in true road games dating to last season, the LSU basketball team looked like it picked the perfect place to end the puzzling streak.
A 12-2 run in the final 2½ minutes of the first half had LSU leading No. 24 Houston by 10 points at halftime and pushed it to 15 in the opening minute of the second half.
But it quickly became apparent Houston wasn’t going to let its 21-game homecourt winning streak, the second-longest in Division I basketball behind South Dakota State’s 24, go down the drain without a fight.
Houston (9-0) put together a huge 28-11 run in a 9½-minute span of the second half, capping it with a 3-point shot by Armoni Brooks with 6:05 to play and went on to a 82-76 victory over LSU (7-3) in the Fertitta Center.
“Our offense got stagnant in the second half,” Wade said. “We didn’t move the ball as well and that hurt us. Then, they just pinned their ears back. It was teir guards getting rebounds … we couldn’t block their guards out.”
“I think LSU outplayed us in the first half,” Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said. “Give credit to that team. But even though we were down 10, we were down, we thought we had a chance — especially with No. 25.”
That would be Houston point guard Galen Robinson. He tied for game-high honors with 18 points and had five rebounds, while his fellow guards — Brooks and Nate Hinton — had nine and eight rebounds, respectively.
“We couldn’t stop Galen Robinson … he controlled the game,” Wade said. “We couldn’t guard him off the bounce and we couldn’t control the middle ball screen and he just completely controlled the game and took over.”
The loss overshadowed a career-high 18 points for LSU freshman guard Ja’vonte Smart. Naz Reid scored 13 points while battling foul trouble in the second half; Marlon Taylor had 11 and Tremont Waters 10.
In a 40-minute slugfest that saw the two teams combine for 51 personal fouls — 27 for LSU and 24 for Houston — the Cougars were able to survive.
LSU’s Darius Days fouled out and two of the Tigers’ other big men — Reid and Emmitt Williams — had four fouls each.
Four other Tigers, including Waters, had three fouls apiece. Houston’s Breaon Brady fouled out, while Lafayette native Corey Davis and New Orleans native Brison Gresham finished the game with four fouls each.
The teams combined for 76 free throws, which were divided equally. LSU made 29 (76.3 percent) and Houston connected on 26 (68.4 percent).
Both teams were shaky from the field as Houston shot 41.9 percent (26 of 62), while LSU made just 36.8 percent (21 of 57).
Not matching Houston’s physical play was what Wade was worried about going into the game, and it showed in the final 15 minutes.
The Cougars muscled their way in to the paint area and beat the Tigers on the glass while Wade’s offense went stale after LSU led 50-35 with 19:04 remaining and by 52-39 at the 15:51 mark.
After holding a slight edge on the glass in the first half, Houston imposed its will in the second half and finished with a 48-35 advantage when it out-rebounded LSU 26-17 in the final 20 minutes.
Houston had 18 offensive rebounds — getting 11 in the second half — and wound up with an 18-6 advantage in second-chance points.
LSU also committed nine of its 16 turnovers in the second half, while Houston gave it away just three times in the final 20 minutes after 12 miscues in the first half.
“We had the lead and let a couple rebounds slip out of our hands and they went out of bounds,” Wade said. “We just couldn’t finish plays in the second half and we couldn’t finish the game off.”